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The Concrete Jungleby Lily Hansen | CS Interiors magazine | April 12, 2012
Call it the “Little Black Dress” of the interior design world: Tom Bucina believes concrete to be the perfect blank canvas. In 2009, Bucina founded Chicago Concrete Studio after honing his craft at commercial cement workshop SoupCan, and has since built countertops, sinks and furniture for people all over town. Working out of a renovated cement factory in the South Side neighborhood of Beverly, Bucina describes the “Mom and Pop” principles behind his edgy aesthetic: “I’m an old-school craftsman,” he says. “This is stone-cold manufacturing and everything is done by hand.” Bucina’s noteworthy clients include new hot spot Roka Akor and Lakeview’s Bleeding Heart Bakery, and countless high-end residential projects.
The entrepreneurial bug first bit during a home improvement project in 2007—a kitchen remodel with his wife Karen to be exact. The process revealed Tom’s carpentry background as the perfect complement to Karen’s attention to aesthetic and design details. Through word of mouth, Bucina got his first bites of business, and his portfolio has continued to expand ever since. (Karen still preps and inspects each product before it leaves the factory.)
In addition to meticulous manufacturing techniques, the “Made in Chicago” motto is something that Bucina is very devoted to. He uses locally sourced materials—think concrete mined in Elgin—and works with local metalsmiths and glassmakers on his projects, which run the gamut from coil-heated countertops (Optimo Hats shop at Western and 103rd) to a concrete bed with matching nightstand for an adventurous North Side client. Still, Bucina agrees his favorite projects have stemmed from the limitless creative freedom that comes from the raw material and, of course, courageous clients. Observing his dust-covered digs, this sand man is the picture of contentment. “When I deliver the final product to the customer, I can’t wait to hear them say how much they love it,” he says. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
Sears Silvertones, pizza on the grill, Electra 225, Don Van Vliet (of Captain Beefheart), made in Chicago, John Prine
The term “handyman,” high gloss, green olives, the wine I am drinking while thinking about my “nots,” cheap socks